MANILA — The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division has cleared a low-ranking Department of Foreign Affairs official found guilty of graft by a lower court over her failure to deposit government funds amounting to P812,819 to a depositary bank in Brunei Darussalam in 2006.
In the resolution dated May 9, 2023, the anti-graft court acquitted Saula Cruz, staff officer II of the Philippine Embassy in Brunei from 2000 to 2006.
The court reversed the guilty verdict handed by the National Capital Regional Trial Court Branch 115 in Pasay City, citing the failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of Cruz beyond reasonable doubt.
"Here, the circumstances established do not show beyond reasonable doubt that Cruz was spurred by corrupt or ill motive," the court said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice Arthur Malabaguio, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, Jr. and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.
In the information against Cruz filed in 2011, she was accused of causing undue injury to the government when she failed to deposit a total amount of B$30,029.50 or US$15,805.
For her defense, Cruz said that the funds could have been improperly registered in the cashbook, or was received but never deposited or became missing.
While the Sandiganbayan acquitted Cruz, her civil liability remains and she was ordered to pay the missing amount.
The court noted that Cruz had already paid a total of P240,000 through salary deductions.
"Thus, the dismissal of the criminal action against Cruz will not erase her civil liability since the dismissal is due to insufficiency of evidence and not from a declaration of a finding that the fact from which the action might arise did not exist," the Sandiganbayan said.